Earthquake in the Visayas: How Fil-Ams can help out!

hc1I was in my final hours of my latest visit to Japan when I received news of the earthquake that struck the Visayas. I started off that trip at the city of Sendai in Tohoku, the region that took the brunt of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. As I watched the crowds clamoring for the latest game releases at the Tohoku Pokemon Center, I tried to picture what those kids must've experienced just a couple years earlier. Fast forward a couple days and the Tohoku quake came to mind again just as footage from Bohol and Cebu started trickling into CNN and NHK. But instead of imagining the victims I began to recall the heroes, the faces of those who - no matter how big or small their contributions were - answered in solidarity the calls of doing their part in the relief and rebuilding effort. As Filipino-American History Month draws to a close, let's end it strong by showing our own solidarity with our kababayan in Bohol and Cebu by helping them recover from the recent earthquake. Coming off the MNLF siege in Zamboanga that ended a couple weeks prior and Typhoon Santi which struck Luzon just days earlier, beleaguered relief groups need help more than ever and even the United Nations has made a call additional funds to help compliment existing efforts.

hc2So how can I help out?

You have two options. First is attending a local fundraiser! I'm currently compiling a master list of events from small towns to big cities across the US and I'm hoping to eventually expand this through any shout-outs from fellow Fil-Ams! Check these out:

New York City

November 1

November 3

Los Angeles

November 3

  • Catalyst Group, Blare Productions, Chryzwin Kreations, and Red Garage Productions will have Bayanihan III at Josephine's Bistro in Cerritos from 7 to 10PM.


November 5

  • FASA of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County will be hosting a Earthquake Relief Bake Sale from 11AM to 2PM at Commons Main Street.

And for those that want to have a more personal event with friends and family, why not try what Armand Frasco had in mind by inviting friends for a night of karaoke at your home and chip in some change as you sing in Karaoke for a Cause!


But what if there's no fundraising event nearby and I'd rather not have to go through another one of my tita's renditions of Dancing Queen?

Thankfully several groups both big and small are taking donations online!

We also have some Fil-Ams taking to crowdfunding sites! Here's a couple examples:

Unfortunately I missed out on some epic fundraisers by the time I compiled this list. However, I wish to share some of the spotlight to the likes of the Philippine Cultural Foundation of Tampa who hosted Operation Tulong at October 27, the Lomboc Association of California's GoFundMe campaign, and even a group up in the San Francisco Bay Area who hosted Zumba for a Cause! But hopefully there will be more to come! Who knows... maybe you might feel compelled to start one yourself!

Photos are courtesy of and used with permission from  Berniemack Arelláno of HabagatCentral, a sojourner based in Cebu who provided coverage of the earthquake's hard-hit areas. Check out his blog!

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Bill) is Passed

I had been following the progress (and stagnation) of the Reproductive Health Bill since 2011, when I wrote part of my college senior thesis about the proposed law. My paper covered the main points of the bill - that it would provide access in the Philippines to maternal care, sex education and contraception, but it would not legalize abortion. I also discussed the controversy surrounding the issue. The majority of the population, along with President Aquino who endorsed the bill were long at odds with the Catholic Church, itself a potent political force within the country. That May, having completed my thesis and received my diploma, I went to the Philippines with my family. The three-week trip was a graduation gift from my parents, and I couldn't wait to explore the country again, this time with a good friend who joined us for the first ten days. While visiting Bohol and Quezon City, we noticed a certain trend: there are so many kids here, we thought. It wasn't an observation I can remember having on any other family vacation. There were small children literally everywhere. They approached us with wonder on the beach, they hung onto their parents at the malls - and they languished on the streets, begging for money. Our thoughts turned often to the RH bill.

I read an article from the Los Angeles Times this past summer that delved into the RH Bill and its implications, while also painting a portrait of a woman named Yolanda Naz. At the age of 36, “she had more children than teeth, common for poor women after repeated pregnancies and breast-feeding.” This mother of eight recounted sermons she had heard at Mass, when priests emphasized the sinfulness of taking birth control pills. But she explains, "What is more sinful is to have more children than I can afford to feed." The RH Bill is for women like Yolanda, who struggle every single day to feed their many sick children.

On December 19, 2012, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 enacted by the 15th Congress of the Philippines. The law guarantees Pilipino citizens access to various contraceptives and fertility control. The public will have access to sex education and methods of family planning. Women are guaranteed maternal care and will have more control over their own bodies. This is a major milestone in the Philippines, where the median age is 23.1 years and the birth rate is 24.98 births/1,000 population (compared to 37.1 years and 13.7/1,000 in the United States).

Human life is precious, and that is exactly why I am glad the bill was passed into law. We should value the lives of children by allowing them to have as much opportunity as possible. Too often they are forced to work instead of going to school; tey become ill or they face death because their parents can't afford the luxuries of education, clean shelter and food. Because of this new law, children in the Philippines - this is the hope, and it will take time - will have a better shot at living healthier and happier lives.